khrushcheva128_OLGA MALTSEVAAFP via Getty Images_navalny poisoned Olga Maltseva/AFP via Getty Images

The Buck Stops with Putin

Whether or not Russian President Vladimir Putin directly ordered the poisoning of Kremlin opponent Alexei Navalny, he created the system that allowed it to happen – one that is ineffective, unaccountable, and prone to destabilization by rogue actors. The West should hold him responsible.

MOSCOW – German, French, and Swedish medical experts agree: Alexei Navalny, Russian President Vladimir Putin’s highest-profile domestic critic and the founder of the Anti-Corruption Foundation, was poisoned with the nerve agent Novichok. Navalny has survived. Russia’s relationship with Germany may not – and that would not necessarily be a bad outcome.

Emphasizing the importance of taking “a clear stance,” German Chancellor Angela Merkel has declared Navalny to be the “victim of a crime intended to silence him.” The case, in her view, raises “very serious questions” that “only the Russian government” can – and must – answer. “The world,” she averred, “will wait for an answer.”

Merkel has called for Russian authorities to launch an independent and transparent investigation into Navalny’s poisoning. The European Union and the United Kingdom have echoed that call. If such an investigation were to expose the Russian state as the culprit, the European Commission suggests, new sanctions may be in order. After all, according to the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons, the poisoning qualifies as use of a banned weapon.

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